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Klobuchar, Hoeven to co-sponsor bill targeting metal thefts

MOORHEAD - A rising tide of metals thefts, particularly copper and copper wire, has led senators from Minnesota and North Dakota to propose making some of those thefts federal crimes and to make selling stolen metal more difficult.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced Tuesday that they will co-sponsor the Metals Theft Prevention Act when the next Congress convenes.

Klobuchar said the law will plug the holes in a patchwork of laws to fight the thefts, which have grown as world demand for metal has risen.

Among the provisions of the bill:

* It will be a federal crime to steal wiring and other metals from critical infrastructure.

* Scrap dealers must require written documents from sellers detailing their authorization to sell metal in their possession.

* Scrap dealers must keep records of sales for two years.

* Purchases of metals for more than $100 must be paid with checks.

The Department of Energy estimates there are $900 million in losses annually due to thefts of copper alone, Klobuchar said.

Between 2009 and 2011, there were 25,000 metals thefts reported in the U.S., she said, up 81 percent from the previous two years.

"This is important. In North Dakota right now, we don't have a law on the books" specifically addressing metal thefts, Hoeven said.

Hoeven said the federal bill gives state laws precedence, so that the regulations don't become burdensome to businesses.

The announcement was made at the Avenia Energy and Electrical Construction headquarters in Moorhead.

Avenia's headquarters has had seven thefts in the last year, costing the firm at least $35,000, President Mike Hanson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583